Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
8th Mar 2023

Spain’s language teaching sector bounces back

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Enrolment in Spanish language courses in Spain grew by 81% last year to reach roughly 72% of pre-pandemic levels
  • Roughly three in four students come from within Europe, with most enrolled in language and culture courses

Enrolment in Spanish language schools in Spain declined by 60% over the height of the pandemic, between 2019 and 2021. But the latest data report from FEDELE (Federación Española de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) reveals that those student numbers came a long way back toward pre-pandemic norms in 2022.

Reporting FEDELE centres had a combined enrolment of 100,140 students in 2022. This represents a 81% increase over the year before and just over 72% of pre-pandemic volumes (2019).

Total enrolment in reporting FEDELE centres, 2017–2022. Source: FEDELE

The recovery is even more profound when measured in student weeks, as we see in the additional table below where the 2022 total for weeks booked equals 84.5% of 2019 volumes.

Total student weeks for reporting FEDELE centres, 2017–2022, with some adjustments for extraordinary data items. Source: FEDELE

The sector's direct economic impact was estimated at €200,075,000 for 2022, which compares to a total of €249,300,000 for 2019 (or roughly 80% of pre-COVID levels).

FEDELE notes that, even with that improvement in 2022, enrolment in Spanish language studies remains under pressure from external factors, such as the war in Ukraine, the (until recently) continuing COVID-related lockdowns in China, and global inflationary trends.

Who are the students?

Just over one in four language students in Spain (26%) are 18 years old or younger, with another 30% between ages 19 and 25, and 27% more in a wider band of 26 to 45 years.

Roughly three out of four (76%) come from Europe, with the top ten sending markets for 2022 as:

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Russia
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Denmark

Nearly a third (29%) comes for language studies combined cultural experiences and another 14% for junior courses. Another 11% were preparing for Spanish language exams, with a similar proportion studying online.

Three in ten students (31%) were referred to their Spanish language schools via agents, with another 37% registering directly.

For additional background, please see:

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